Investment industry looks to bring black representation above 1%

Justin Onuekwusi says asset managers need to open up about topics that have traditionally been taboo

IA

The Investment Association (IA) has published a report examining steps the investment industry can take to bring the representation of black professionals above the current measly figure 1%.

Almost 3% of the UK population identifies as black and in London, where the bulk of the UK investment management industry’s workforce is based, this is 13%. However, less than 1% of  investment managers are black, according to Black Voices: Building black representation in investment management, which the IA completed in conjunction with #talkaboutblack.

Industry lacks black role models

According to the research, 40% of black professionals surveyed felt their firms did not have policies in place to support the recruitment and progression of black employees.

It said 30% of black professionals believed that finding work in investment management was challenging for young black people and firms should also consider implementing ‘contextual recruitment’, in which hiring decisions take into account individuals’ circumstances and their innate abilities.

Over 50% of black professionals surveyed said that they had no black role models at work.

Create inclusive workplaces

The report sets out 10 steps firms can take to tackle this and create more diverse and inclusive workplaces, as well as ways to help increase the number of black employees within the industry, support their career progression, and ensure that their voices are heard.

The steps outlined include modernising recruitment processes by reaching out to a wider, more diverse entry-level talent pool, establishing mentoring or talent development programmes, which can give younger staff the support needed and building black networks to help black people discover new opportunities within the industry.

On behalf of #talkaboutblack, Justin Onuekwusi (pictured), head of retail multi-asset funds at Legal & General Investment Management, said: “While ethnic minorities are generally underrepresented across the asset management industry, the issue becomes all the more pressing when we consider how few employees, especially those in senior leadership, are black.

“It has long been taboo to discuss ethnicity, yet change can only come about once we have these conversations. We created #talkaboutblack as a platform to not only discuss the challenges faced by our black colleagues, but to also come up with solutions.”

Black not BAME

Other steps in the report included widening education on inclusion which recognises an individual’s whole identity and focuses on equality such as using the term black, rather than BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic), which the IA said currently masks the different experiences and varying representations of ethnic groups.

Onuekwusi said talking about ethnicity is leading to tangible action and provides a real opportunity to make the lasting change that can inspire the next generation of aspiring black asset and investment management professionals.

Chris Cummings, chief executive of the IA, said: “Diversity makes us all stronger. Different voices, opinions and experiences help investment performance, widening horizons and discouraging group think. And we need to be connected with all our clients. Just as our customers come from all ethnic backgrounds, so should our people.

“Building a diverse and inclusive industry requires self-reflection and honesty. This report seeks to do that by giving a voice to black people who have not previously always been heard.

“Our industry now has an opportunity to lead from the front in being a catalyst for social change, not just in our own investment houses but well beyond too. We must seize it.”

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